On July 27th, the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America ratified a resolution allowing openly gay adults to serve as Boy Scout leaders and employees, reports Reuters. Over three-quarters of the board voted in favor of the resolution, according to a statement at the Boy Scouts Newsroom website.
The statement notes that religious chartered organizations may still use religious beliefs and "matters of sexuality" as criteria for choosing adult leaders. LGBTQ rights organizations have applauded the resolution while expressing concern about the loophole for religious chartered organizations.
Predictably, some religious authorities were offended by the decision in spite of the loophole. In a July 27th statement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints expressed disapproval of the Boy Scout's decision.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.The LDS is heavily invested in scouting. According to the New York Times, every Mormon boy is automatically enrolled in Cub Scouts at age eight, and each congregation has a scout troop. The recent resolution could have a serious impact on the relationship between the LDS and the Boy Scouts of America.
As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead."
Mormons aren't the only voices criticizing the decision. In a July 27th statement, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting was relieved that the resolution would allow Catholic-chartered organizations the right to choose leaders based on its own criteria. However, the committee also frowned on the Boy Scout's decision to allow gay adult leaders. (Hat tip to the New York Times.)
"It is not entirely clear how these rights will be squared with previous policy changes the Boy Scouts have made, or how they will work in practice, but it appears that the resolution respects the needs of Catholic-chartered organizations in the right to choose leaders whose character and conduct are consistent with those of Catholic teaching. At the same time, we express strong concern about the practical implications of this resolution, especially for our young people in Scouting, and whether the term “sexual orientation" will be correctly understood and applied only in reference to sexual inclination and not to sexual conduct or behavior. We also express concern that the resolution articulates a position on adult sexual conduct that does not make clear that sexual behavior should be reserved to a husband and a wife in marriage ..."Even before Boy Scouts of America ratified the resolution, some Religious Right groups feared the Boy Scouts would accept gay leaders. Trail Life USA, a Christian scouting organization, warned that a Boy Scout vote in favor of gays "reverses over a hundred years of tradition, values and also alters years of the youth protection policy within the organization" in a July 23 statement.
"We are greatly saddened by the BSA's resolution which is expected to pass the National Executive Board on Monday, July 27, 2015.John Stemberger, Trail Life USA chairman of the board, claimed that the Boy Scout's decision would resulting in gays "flaunting" their identity through "sexual innuendo" in an interview with 90.9 WBUR.
This change in membership policy places the churches and religious institutions who sponsor BSA troops at greater legal risk especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Obergefell decision declaring same-sex marriage a "fundamental right" and homosexuality an "immutable" characteristic."
Some Religious Right commentators were far less restrained. In a column for World Net Daily, Linda Harvey was outraged that children in Boy Scouts would be taught that being gay is normal. God hasn't change his mind on homosexuality or "yielded to progressives on the matter of sexual sin", she wrote. By accepting gay leaders, the Boy Scouts have abandoned honor and discipline, Harvey claimed. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"...Even if you as a parent don’t see open homosexual behavior as a threat, would you want your son to learn discipline, commitment, respect and honor from a group led by a people showing no discipline, commitment, respect or honor?"In typical homophobic fashion, Harvey sought to instill fear in readers by warning that the new policy would "throw vulnerable young men into the arms of bondage", encourage them to "defy God", and "satisfy their basest desires".
Some detractors resorted to ugly, dangerous stereotypes about gay men, demonizing them as child abusers. For example, during the July 27th edition of Pray In Jesus Name, Colorado state representative Gordon Klingenschmitt claimed that gay scout leaders could abuse boys. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"If your boy is in one of those organizations, you need to get him out of there, because what they're going to do is promote homosexual men to mentoring and camping with your boys in the woods, and it will lead to child abuse ... The Boy Scouts have been sued for this in the past, and they think this is going to fix it? This is going to make it worse. And the children are in danger. It's not about the sexual pleasure of the adults, it should be about protecting the innocent children."LGBTQ equality has achieved another small victory, and the Religious Right has been thrown for another loop. This is a positive development for the Boy Scouts, who have acknowledged the need to evolve.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Ward Gossip: Now It May Not Even Be Fun for Boys
NPR: Mormons Face A Painful Loss If The Church Severs Boy Scout Ties